More than a thousand flags were on display in the park known as the “Healing Field.” "It's a beautiful, patriotic and soft way to let people know that we're here to support them," said Karen Stelman of the Rancho Bernardo Rotary Club who came up with the idea for the event. She said the idea had been used before in memorials for 9/11 victims. Flags were fitted with different colored ribbons representing homes lost in Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Santa Fe, Poway, Escondido, Ramona and Lakeside.
Those who lost their homes appreciated all the work done by 169 volunteers, the Rotary Club and Scripps Ranch residents who had suffered in the fires of 2003. "It's a great feeling to know that you have the support of all these people," said Stephen Stout who lost his Rancho Bernardo home on October 22nd.
For he and his wife Debra, the healing has been more difficult. While their neighbors on Cabela Drive and the surrounding streets have completed their new homes or are in various stages of construction, the Stouts have yet to pour concrete for their foundation. They spent over six months negotiating with their homeowner's insurance company on the amount they would have to replace their home. Their claim has partially been settled. "It feels good to walk up to the property and see that some work has started" said Stout. He says he still has yet to settle on the 'content' part of his insurance claim.
San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarman was on hand for the opening ceremony. Residents took the opportunity to ask questions and share ideas with her about what more they could do to protect themselves and their property from fire. "I think they're starting to realize that this is the reality of living in San Diego and I look forward to working with them to see what we can do to better deal with the fires," said Jarman.
Jarman also reminded residents that we're not out of the woods yet. She says Santa Ana winds are expected to return to the county next week.